Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From K. John

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
                  Pardon me, madam,
I may not go without you to the kings.
Thou may’st, thou shalt: I will not go with thee.
I will instruct my sorrows to be proud;
For grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop.        5
To me and to the state of my great grief
Let kings assemble; for my grief’s so great
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.
(She seats herself on the ground) …
.. And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
If that be true, I shall see my boy again;
For since the birth of Cain, the first male child,
To him that did but yesterday suspire,        15
There was not such a gracious creature born.
But now will canker sorrow eat my bud,
And chase the native beauty from his cheek,
And he will look as hollow as a ghost,
As dim and meagre as an ague’s fit,        20
And so he’ll die; and, rising so again,
When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
I shall not know him: therefore never, never
Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.
You hold too heinous a respect of grief.
He talks to me that never had a son.
You are as fond of grief as of your child.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,        30
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.        35
I will not keep this form upon my head
When there is such disorder in my wit.
[Tearing off her head-dress.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows cure!    [Exit.        40
I fear some outrage, and I’ll follow her.    [Exit.
There ’s nothing in this world can make me joy.
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
And bitter shame hath spoiled the sweet world’s taste        45
That it yields nought but shame and bitterness …
Note 1. Shakespeare. From ‘K. John’. The widow Constance, in alliance with Philip of France, was claiming the throne of England for her son Arthur through his father Geoffrey, who was K. John’s elder brother. The first section given is from Act. III. sc. 1, when she hears that Philip has bargained away his support of Arthur’s claim for a marriage alliance with John. The second section is from Scene 4, after Arthur had been taken prisoner by K. John: who had already given orders for his murder. [back]

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